Instead of birthday gifts, 7-year-old collecting school supplies for needy children
by Suzanne Sproul
Seven-year-old Taylor Armstrong started planning her upcoming birthday party last March.
But instead of obsessing about colors, themes and the latest gift trends, Taylor decided she didn't want anything for herself. Instead, she is asking her friends and the community to bring backpacks with school supplies in them so they can be donated to The Children's Fund of San Bernardino County.
"She was home sick that day and she told me, mommy, I have everything I need, but a lot of kids don't. She told me she knew how she wanted to spend her birthday. She was watching The Disney Channel on television and saw a story about a girl collecting shoes for an orphanage in China. That's when she told me how she wanted to celebrate," said mom Desirae Armstrong of Rancho Cucamonga.
"The idea surprised me, but I'm not surprised that Taylor came up with it. She's always worried about others, and she's always giving away her things."
Armstrong made some calls. She called San Bernardino County, which referred her to The Children's Fund. The Children's Fund is a private/public partnership set up years ago by people who care about all children, but especially those who are neglected, abandoned or abused. The nonprofit helps children in need from throughout San Bernardino County by giving them and families counseling and support along with food, clothing and shelter.
She told her daughter she could do whatever she wanted "" collect toys, shoes, backpacks, etc. Taylor chose backpacks because her birthday is fairly close to going back to school. She's hoping that people can put age-appropriate school supplies in them for elementary, middle and even high school students. Taylor also would like every child to have a lunch box. The invitations went out. And soon a little girl's big idea started growing.
"We received information about a girl who is turning 8 years old, Taylor, and wants all gifts to be backpacks to be donated to Children's Fund. How cool is that?" said Karen Blanco, public relations and marketing manager for The Children's Fund.
So this Saturday Taylor will celebrate her 8th birthday and children she doesn't know and probably will never meet will be getting some special gifts. The party is set from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Day Creek Park, 12350 Banyon St., Shelter A, Rancho Cucamonga. Armstrong said she'll probably set up a table on the sidewalk so if anyone else wants to join in on the birthday fun and drop off a filled backpack, they can.
"If someone wanted to drop off a backpack that would be more than OK. The more backpacks we can raise the better. Tay's dream is to make a huge impact. This was 100 percent her idea and I am trying to make that happen," the mom said.
Although Taylor is not asking for any presents this Saturday, her mom and dad, Josh, said they can't help but reward her for her good heart.
"Don't tell her, but we've gotten her something. We're just so proud of her. This is all her. I wish I could take credit for it, but this is all my little girl. She's hoping people will focus on positive stuff instead of the negative," the mom said. "She's trying to do some good."
"When I saw the commercial on television it was about cool things others could do. I thought maybe I could make a nice change, too," Taylor said. "I hope everyone could come to the party and help to change a life."
Among the guests already planning on coming are Erin Phillips, her husband and their daughter. Erin Phillips is the president and chief executive officer of The Children's Fund. She was moved by Taylor's unselfishness and said there's no place she'd rather be on Saturday.
Blanco said she hopes Taylor's actions inspire others.
"This is a wonderful lesson to teach young children, especially those that have so much more than others. It's terrific to learn at such a young age that you can help other children by donating your birthday gifts to kids who are in need of basic things like backpacks filled with school supplies," she said.
The donated backpacks will be given to foster youth children and children in need. Anyone interested in continuing what Taylor has started can contact The Children's Fund at 909-379-0000 or drop off a backpack labeled "For Taylor's Birthday Party" at 348 W. Hospitality Lane, No. 110, San Bernardino, 92408.
LAPD asks for help to ID gunman who ambushed 2 officers
by Christina Villacorte
(Video on site)
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck on Wednesday released a surveillance video of the gunman who ambushed two police officers at the Wilshire Division station early Tuesday morning and asked the public for help in identifying him. He said the attack did not appear related to a separate shooting in Willowbrook on Tuesday night, which injured a police officer and a probation officer.
During a news conference at the downtown Los Angeles Police Department headquarters, Beck said the video shows the gunman walking on the street across from the Wilshire Division station immediately after the ambush, wearing dark clothing and possibly holding a revolver. "He's described as a male African-American, medium build, with a mustache and a goatee," Tips should be phoned into 800-222-TIPS or 877-LAPD-24-7.
Beck added the LAPD would ask the City Council to offer a reward in exchange for information on the gunman, whom he called an extreme danger to the community. "I think people have to recognize that anybody that is willing to engage two armed police officers in a gunbattle certainly has no compunction about attacking unarmed civilians," he said. "This is somebody who should be considered extremely dangerous not only to the people who are sworn to protect you but also to the public in general. I also think it should be one of the highest priorities of the public to help the police to bring this individual to justice."
Beck said the two ambushed police officers, both veteran burglary detectives, sustained only minor injuries after the attacker sneaked up from behind while they were waiting for the gate of the Wilshire Division station parking lot to open. The gunman shot at them through a window of their unmarked vehicle just after they had swiped their key card. A bullet grazed one officer's hand. The other was hit in the head by broken glass.
They were luckier than a colleague who was also attacked Tuesday. A man hiding in an attic shot an LAPD officer in the jaw and grazed a probation officer's leg while they were conducting a compliance check at a Willowbrook house around 7 p.m. The suspect was killed in the ensuing gunbattle.
Beck said the injured officer is in very serious condition but expected to recover. "He's a very tough young man. He has a strong will to live, [but] he will undoubtedly undergo and suffer multiple reconstruction surgeries." Chief Probation Officer Jerry Powers said he could not remember the last time a probation officer was injured during a compliance check in the past five years.
Neither official released the name of the injured, nor of the gunman who was killed. The identity of the gunman is still being verified. Beck said the shootings happening within hours of each other left him shaken. "When they go back-to-back like this, it shakes your faith in your ability to control the things that happen to you and your folks."
NYC Council votes to impose new NYPD oversight
NEW YORK – The most expansive plans in years to impose new oversight on the New York Police Department passed the City Council early Thursday, as lawmakers voted to create an outside watchdog and make it easier to bring racial profiling claims against the nation's largest police force.
Both passed with enough votes to override expected vetoes, marking an inflection point in the public debate and power dynamics that have set the balance between prioritizing safety and protecting civil liberties here.
Proponents see the legislation as a check on a police department that has come under scrutiny for its heavy use of a tactic known as stop and frisk and its extensive surveillance of Muslims, as disclosed in a series of stories by The Associated Press.
"New Yorkers know that we can keep our city safe from crime and terrorism without profiling our neighbors," Councilman Brad Lander, who spearheaded the measures with fellow Democratic Councilman Jumaane Williams, said at a packed and emotional meeting that began shortly before midnight and stretched into the early morning.
Lawmakers delved into their own experiences with the street stops, drew on the city's past in episodes ranging from the high crime of the 1990s to the 1969 Stonewall riots that crystallized the gay rights movement, and traded accusations of paternalism and politicizing. In a sign of the national profile the issue has gained, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous was in the audience, while hip hop impresario Russell Simmons tweeted to urge the measures' passage.
Critics say the measures would impinge on techniques that have wrestled crime down dramatically and would leave the NYPD "pointlessly hampered by outside intrusion and recklessly threatened by second-guessing from the courts," in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's words. He vowed in a statement minutes after the vote to veto the measures and continue urging lawmakers to take his side.
But while it's too soon to settle how the initiatives may play out in practice if they survive the expected veto, they already have shaped politics and perception.
Besides giving ground to complaints that the NYPD hasn't been sensitive enough to civil rights and racial fairness, the legislation has put the three-term mayor and his popular police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, in the uncommon position of possibly losing a high-profile fight on public safety. They have gone to lengths to make their criticisms heard, most recently in a Monday news conference at which Bloomberg envisioned gang members lodging discriminatory-policing complaints and Kelly invoked "al-Qaeda wannabes."
Yet on Wednesday, many council members rebuffed those concerns and approved the measures by wide margins, though the profiling lawsuit bill garnered just exactly the 34 yes votes that would be needed to overcome a potential veto.
"It just became so polarized," Eugene O'Donnell, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor who follows issues related to the NYPD, said by phone. "(The mayor and commissioner) just dug in their heels, for whatever reason, and they ended up with the City Council coalescing around a pretty dramatic set of steps."
The measures follow on decades of efforts to empower outside input on the NYPD. Efforts to establish an independent civilian complaint board in the 1960s spurred a bitter clash with a police union, which mobilized a referendum on it. Voters defeated it.
More than two decades later, private citizens were appointed to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which handles mainly misconduct claims against individual officers. A 1990s police corruption scandal spurred a recommendation for an independent board to investigate corruption; a Commission to Combat Police Corruption was established in 1995, but it lacks subpoena power.
Courts also have exercised some oversight, including through a 1985 federal court settlement that set guidelines for the NYPD's intelligence-gathering. And the City Council has weighed in before, including with a 2004 law that barred racial or religious profiling as "the determinative factor" in police actions, a measure Bloomberg signed.
The new measures are further-reaching than any of that, proponents and critics agree.
One would establish an inspector general with subpoena power to explore and recommend, but not force, changes to the NYPD's policies and practices. Various law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department, have inspectors general.
The other would give people more latitude if they felt they were stopped because of bias based on race, sexual orientation or certain other factors.
Plaintiffs wouldn't necessarily have to prove that a police officer intended to discriminate. Instead, they could offer evidence that a practice such as stop and frisk affects some groups disproportionately, though police could counter that the disparity was justified to accomplish a substantial law enforcement end. The suits couldn't seek money, just court orders to change police practices.
The proposals were impelled partly by concern about the roughly 5 million stop and frisks the NYPD has conducted in the last decade, with more than 80 percent of those stopped being black or Hispanic and arrests resulting less than 15 percent of the time. But proponents also point to the department's spying on Muslims, which has included infiltrating Muslim student groups and putting informants in mosques, as the AP series showed.
The poor, mostly Muslim members of a South Asian advocacy group called Desis Rising Up and Moving "feel the impact of both issues -- surveillance, as Muslims -- and stop and frisk," which is prevalent in a Queens neighborhood where many members live, said Fahd Ahmed, the group's legal director.
Stop and frisk is already the subject of a federal lawsuit brought by four men who claim they were stopped solely because of their race, along with hundreds of thousands of others stopped in the last decade. A judge is considering whether to order reforms to the policy and establish the court's own monitoring. City attorneys argued the stops were lawful and not based on race alone.
The NYPD has defended the surveillance and stop and frisks as legal, and critics of the new legislation point to another set of statistics: Killings and other serious offenses have fallen 34 percent since 2001, while the number of city residents in jails and prisons has fallen 31 percent.
Bloomberg has said they could tie the department up in lawsuits and complaints, inject courts and an inspector general into tactical decisions and make "proactive policing by police officers extinct in our city."
And several council members agreed with him
"The unintended consequences, potentially, of these bills is when a human, a man or woman, who has (a) badge . will pull their punch and not aggressively pursue a potential perpetrator, and then he or she goes out and commits a crime. That's the fear," Republican Councilman Vincent Ignizio told his colleagues Thursday.
If the measures ultimately survive, Bloomberg won't be in City Hall to see much of the outcome. The term-limited mayor leaves office this year.
Democratic mayoral candidates have generally said the practice needs changing. Some Republicans, meanwhile, have embraced the NYPD's view.
DEARBORN: Police chief proud of falling crime rate, community outreach efforts
by Joe Slezak
DEARBORN — When Ronald Haddad was hired as police chief 4 1/2 years ago, the city had recorded more than 8,000 serious crimes in the previous year, landing it on Forbes Magazine's list of the nation's most dangerous cities with populations less than 100,000.
The number was roughly 6,200 for 2012.
The list of serious crimes include homicides, rapes, assaults, burglaries, larcenies, auto thefts and arson.
“Dearborn is a far safer city now,” Haddad said.
He said there are several reasons for the reduction and he's proud of what his department has accomplished. The Detroit police retiree said it was a combination of what the officers have accomplished while teaming with civic leaders, schools and faith-based organizations.
“It's a total effort by our department and our community,” Haddad said, citing examples of working with Fairlane Town Center, businesses in the Ford Road-Southfield Freeway area and the East Dearborn Downtown Development Authority so everyone is, “pulling in the same direction.”
He said it's more than an external effort — it's internal, too.
“We have provided our department with best practices when it comes to training and equipping our officers,” Haddad said.
Among the technical improvements are two things in patrol cars: Video recording and an e-ticket system. When an officer writes a ticket, it goes into a system that supervisors can monitor. And, with the video recording system, if there's ever a question about what happened during an incident, video and audiotape is available.
“We're just employing best practices, which provides us with an accurate accounting of events, especially in the event when an officer is falsely accused,” Haddad said.
He also said there have been some administrative changes that have worked out well. He said the detective bureau now has a team concept where if one detective is unavailable, another on the team can assist with a case. He said it also allows for younger members of the team to be trained by sergeants, which he said will pay off with succession planning.
Patrol officers are in the first year of a pilot program that started in September in which they work 12-hour shifts. He said it was negotiated into the officers' union contract and will be evaluated on its success.
“We're reasonably optimistic,” Haddad said.
He said for the most part, feedback has been positive and it allows for extra days off. Officers work six 12-hour shifts over every two-week stretch.
Haddad said the department also is revamping its operations manual and offering additional training when a policy is changed. All general orders are reviewed by the city's Law Department before they're implemented.
Another success, he said, has been with the department's community policing model, which he said engages residents through neighborhood association, block clubs and community meetings.
“They like the transparency we have with reporting crime to the community,” Haddad said.
The efforts include notifications through Nixle.com, Crimemapping.com and Facebook, and making reports available to the media.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police visited the city for a week recently to look at the effort.
He's also pleased with the Explorer and intern programs, which expose young people to law enforcement careers.
“I, for one, value the need for having a police department that's reflective of the community we serve,” Haddad said. “That goes a long way in building trust in the community, and that goes a long way in ensuring officers' safety.”
The Arab and Hispanic population has been increasing and, during the day, the city's “population” is 70 percent black, he said.
Haddad said he's very happy with the quality of candidates, who undergo a background check, including driving and criminal records; undergo a psychological evaluation; take written and physical fitness exams; and are certified by the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement standards.
At that point, they undergo a final interview before they can be hired.
“It's an awesome responsibility to hire someone,” Haddad said. “I don't take that lightly at all.”
He added it's important for there to be respect and trust between the community and Police Department. Bias-free training is important, he said, because of the community's diversity. The department also has reached out to ethnic groups so its members aren't afraid to report crime.
“The key difference is we're involved in the community with our Police Department more than ever before,” Haddad said.
The department teamed with the Dearborn Public Schools to offer the first school active shooter training in Wayne County. Federal officials performed threat vulnerability assessments in the buildings. The department also met with the Dearborn Area Ministerial Association to talk about security at churches and mosques.
Haddad said the department also looks at things from a regional perspective, with one of three bomb squads in the state, a polygraph operator that other departments can use and a K-9 unit with three dogs and their handlers. The department has a Special Weapons and Tactics team that can back up the Western Wayne team, and an honor guard that appears at public events like the city's annual Memorial Day parade.
“These functions can add value to what the Police Department can add to the community,” Haddad said.
When Haddad looks to the future, he said he wants the department to continue its efforts in reaching out to the community, while internally having a succession plan in place. The department, which has 186 officers, generally loses about a dozen annually to retirement, but is projecting to lose 30 by November 2014. He said it's important to assign officers based on their skill sets and train them so they can move up the ladder.
Haddad also wants officers to be even more proactive and visible in the community. On the flip side, the department is encouraging residents to use the suspicious activity tip line, 1-313-943-3030, which connects callers to dispatchers. Calls can be made anonymously.
He encourages residents to be nosy neighbors. If they think they see something wrong, they should call.
“Citizens need to take ownership of their own safety because we can't be everywhere,” Haddad said. “All of these kinds of things are common sense and keep our community safer.
“What's key here is trust and communication.”
Community Safety and Police Accountability
by Julio Pabon -- Candidate for City Council South Bronx, NY; Founder, LatinoSports.com
Crime is an issue in our community and the police play an important role when it comes to crime fighting, but for our community to enjoy peace and not just an absence of violence, it must be free both of the fear of crime and fear of the police. The best policing is that which is done in true partnership with the community being served. It is respectful of the culture and history of the community. It is policing that plays to the positives of the community with the goal of building and supporting the community's leadership and capacity. It is built on trust based on a belief in shared values. This type of policing will be well appreciated by the community and promote mutual respect and good will for the officers on local patrol as well as the entire NYPD.
This is not the type of policing that is taking place in the South Bronx, in Harlem or in of the city's black and brown communities. The kind of policing that takes place in our communities assumes negativity or hostility on the part of the community. It is crime prevention based on instilling fear of the police and base on the assumption that all black and brown people, but especially the young men, are always ready to engage in wrong doing.
That is the message of the city's current stop and frisk policy. Otherwise how do you explain more than 1 million stops during the last two years, mostly of young people of color, that have resulted in only 8% of those persons being arrested or even getting a summons? The problem with the NYPD's stop and frisk policy has little to do with the courtesy and professionalism of the police officers conducting the stops, although more of each is sorely needed on the street. The problem is the logic and rationale behind the policy which promotes the targeting of black and brown people with a special focus on the presumed trouble-making young people. Today's large scale stop and frisk program is based on racial profiling and needs to come to an end.
This week the City Council is expected to vote on two bills -- the End NYPD Discriminatory Profiling Bill (Intro 1080) and the NYPD Oversight Act (Intro 1079) that are part of the Community Safety Act promoted by Communities United for Police Reform, a citywide coalition brought together because of the injustice perpetrated by the City's stop and frisk policy. The first bill will specifically ban racial and other types of profiling by the NYPD, and give individuals the right to sue if s/he is unjustly profiled by the NYPD. The second bill will create the office of an independent Inspector General (IG) for the NYPD within the City's Department of Investigations. The IG would be able to review NYPD operations, policies, programs and practices.
These bills deserve the support of every NYC councilmember, but especially of every councilmember representing a black or brown community. Contact your councilmember and urge him or her to vote in support of these two bills.
The NYPD, with the support and acquiescence of the mayor, through its promotion and over use of stop and frisk has created a situation in our communities where fear of the police now needs as much attention as the fear of crime. Through education and organizing our communities are presently moving to create police accountability. Through education and organizing, our communities will also defeat violence and achieve true peace.